Shaping Employees’ Soft Skills Through Tailored Onboarding

We’ve previously talked about the crisis in soft skills in corporate America—clear communication, empathic audience analysis, effective meeting skills, and the like. What we’re hearing is that even new hires who have a natural instinct for soft skills, especially those right out of college, still experience a learning curve while they tailor those skills to their new job’s culture and clients. As you know, the longer the learning curve, the less meaningful work you’re getting from that employee.

One way to get around this is to build customized, company-specific soft-skills training into your onboarding process. It’s easier (and less expensive) to set standards for communication early in an employee’s career than it is to course-correct later. This is why we often supplement clients’ onboarding programs with baseline communication skills training. Regardless of the program, the goal is the same: lay a foundation for effective communication that will last a lifetime.

Tailored Onboarding Solutions

Here’s how it’s worked for us with current clients:

  • We talk about your onboarding process as a whole and find the right moment to thread in communication training, sometimes coordinating with other trainers—especially in sales training and written communication training—to ensure a consistent, mutually reinforcing message.
  • We learn about the roles and responsibilities of the new hires.
  • We learn about special challenges faced by their team or the company as a whole that might affect their learning needs, including internal issues, cultural shifts, key client communication preferences, and management expectations.
  • Clients describe their desired outcomes—how they want new hires to communicate after onboarding.

Equipped with this information, we customize our courses to focus on what’s important to the company, using meaningful examples that dovetail with other onboarding learning and what they’re experiencing as they begin their work. We use the company’s terminology and acronyms, and we acknowledge its existing challenges.

6 Benefits of Tailored Communication Training Embedded into Onboarding Programs

This approach has several positive results:

  1. Teaching these skills early in an employee’s tenure with a company is a lot easier—and less expensive—than trying to get them to unlearn bad or ineffective habits.
  2. Soft-skills errors are less likely to occur as new hires begin doing their jobs. Managers have a lot fewer, “Sorry, that was the new guy,” calls to make to clients and partners.
  3. Cultural changes or workflow enhancements management is working to enact have been built into new hires’ expectations of themselves and their jobs.
  4. Inconsistencies among different kinds of training—especially prevalent in soft-skills training—are minimized, which prevents time-wasting distraction and confusion. What we mean here is that soft-skills training takes a variety of approaches, which may all be effective individually, but which can lead to confusion if instructors don’t understand each other’s methods and, ideally, discuss alignment and crossover in advance.
  5. New hires don’t have to translate between generic training and their real experiences at their new jobs. The vocabulary and examples used in the training classroom are part of their actual work lives.
  6. The presentations or meetings new hires worked on during onboarding training are real and often happen within days or weeks after their time with us concludes. Their success gives learners an early win in their new careers and makes their managers very happy.

We encourage you to take a look at your onboarding process and consider how we can help. We’d love to talk about early, targeted enhancement of communication skills as part of your onboarding process, and we have many stories we’re happy to tell about the benefits. Give us a call.

By Categories: Training

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About the Author: Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission of providing the best presentation and facilitation skills training available. Since then, he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, Dale is our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. He holds a Bates ExPI™ (Executive Presence Index) coaching certification. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined,” “The Virtual Orderly Conversation,” and Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning,” all written with Turpin’s VP, Greg Owen-Boger.

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